He began to suspect something was wrong when he passed Minerva and the Gryffindor Know-It-All in the hallway outside the transfiguration classroom. Minerva had her back turned to him, so it was impossible for him to read the emotions on her face. She did, however, lean forward slightly and her neck was bent. He could imagine her sharp eyes intent on Granger's face.
He could see Granger, and saw her hands twisted together in front of her, her teeth biting her lower lip and her whole demeanor tense. He couldn't determine whether it was sadness or anger that was marring her features, or perhaps both of them in equal measure.
Clearly, something had upset Granger greatly. Not that it was difficult to upset a Gryffindor, mind, they got worked up over the smallest things... But this was different. He studied Granger again, slowing his stride until he was right in front of the pair and could observe Granger's every twitch. She had a crease between her eyebrows and her eyes were slightly puffy. There was a kind of fevered determination burning in her over-bright eyes. Something he ought to recognize.
It was righteous anger. How... Gryffindor-esque. It was the same proud toss of the head he had often seen in Lily when someone (usually he) was being treated badly.
And in Granger's case, she would only feel that way about one person.
The Brat-Who-Lived, with Lily's green eyes.
"Potter looks a bit.. peaky today."
He sneered, of course, and glanced over at Minerva. She feigned interest in her food (though he knew she loathed kidney pie) and simply shrugged. She knew he had seen her with Granger earlier.
"Why do you ask, Severus?" she said casually.
Now it was his turn to shrug and look at his food. He wasn't particularly fond of kidney pie either.
"The brat has detention with me tonight. I imagine he will do everything possible to get out of it."
Minerva glanced at him, suddenly looking more like a young girl than the respectable woman and Deputy Headmistress she was.
"I imagine the stress of the year is getting to him. After all, he has his OWLs in less than two month."
"A wonder he's even here to take them, after all the idiotic, life-threatning situations he gets himself into," Severus said venomously.
Minerva just looked at him with a knowing half-smile, not unlike the Headmaster's.
"Mr. Potter has been serving an unusual amount of detentions with the High Inquisitor this year," she said, ignoring his earlier statement.
"It has obviously done nothing whatsoever to help his behavior," he spat. He knew he was getting closer to whatever it was Granger had discussed with her earlier. But what could it have to do with the repulsive toad seated three seats to the left of him?
"It appears she disapproves of him publicly announcing You-Know-Who's return. In fact, she has employed some rather archaic methods to make him keep silent."
A faint roar sounded somewhere, far off, but Minerva kept going.
"Miss Granger came to speak with me earlier today. Apparently, Harry did not want to... burden me with any of his problems. But Miss Granger was afraid he would be permanently injured unless someone did something. Soon."
The roar continued, making it impossible for him to concentrate.
"What did she do, Minerva?" he ground out, in a voice very much unlike his own.
"Why, Severus, I didn't think you cared," she said slyly. "Perhaps you should ask Mr. Potter yourself."
He stared at her for a moment, then burst out of the Great Hall. The roar rang in his ears, and he realized he was panting. He could not even name the feeling he was experiencing, only that it was making his chest feel constricted and his sallow cheeks burn.
In his mind's eye, he saw Granger's face of this morning, and knew. Righteous anger.
Potter slid timidly into his office at three minutes past seven and he gave the boy a sharp reprimand. Then he saw the hand. Or rather. He saw one hand. Potter held his right hand hidden slightly behind his right thigh, enough to hide it. He probably thought he was drawing attention away from it, but he was in fact doing the exact opposite. It was the first thing his eyes were drawn to.
"Potter." The boy looked up from the floor to the collar of his shirt. "What are you hiding? Stolen goods, a stink-bomb perhaps?"
The brat shook his head and his face tensed. He didn't argue but simply lifted his hand palm up. It was empty.
He snorted, and the boy dropped the hand. This time, he had time to see the back of it. It was red.
He moved so quickly Potter did not have time to react.
I must not tell lies glared at him. The cuts were deep and recent and he knew from his extensive reading on the Dark Arts that they had been done with a blood quill. Archaic indeed.
The roaring was back.
Stupid proud Potter with his round glasses and Lily's eyes and her cheekbones and lips and...
Disgusting toad who had made him break his promise.
Potter stared at him silently, his hand still held out before him, just as he was still gripping it in his.
The brat scurried out the room and left him standing there, dazed.
He had thought he had protected that insufferable brat. But he had not. For surely, he would have noticed something like this. He may not like children, and particularly not this child, but surely he would have noticed someone hurting a child. A wave of cold washed over him and he wondered if there were other bleeding cuts on other hands he had failed to see.
And he wondered if Lily would be ashamed of the man she had begged to protect her son if she was not there, if she would be disappointed in him.
He was, after all, not such a protector. He had not done the one thing he could have done to redeem himself.
He went to his desk and sat and saw I must not tell lies flash before his vision.
"Good evening, Dolores."
Her office was pink and fluffy and disgusting.
She answered him in her high, girlish voice and he felt his guts clench.
This time he identified the feeling immediately. Righteous anger.
The door slammed shut behind him.